Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

App Review: Image Chef

Recently, The Teen had to do a complex poetry assignment. One of the poems she had to create was a Concrete Poem, a poem that takes a shape. I would like to point out that the subject of her poem was me – go Mom! But we went looking for a way to easily create the shape poem. The most obvious answer is Tagxedo, but for me the task was an opportunity to explore new apps. This is how I stumbled upon Visual Poetry, which is a part of Image Chef. You can download Visual Poetry separately, but I highly recommend just getting all of Image Chef.

Description

“Now with video! Do amazing things with photos & text using ImageChef. Use our amazing photo and text templates, or arrange text and stickers manually. Output as images, animated GIF, or videos that you can post to Instagram.”

Image Chef is an app, but it is also an online resource as well. It is a photo manipulator, but it also does text images as well. Basically, Image Chef is a really cool resource. And, depending on what you are doing, it is really quick and easy to use. In a matter of minutes I made these three images:

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You can do the most basic elements for free, but you have to upgrade to the Pro version to remove the watermark or get HD images. The online Pro Version costs $9.99 a week, $24 a month, $49 for months or $100 for a year. That’s a pretty steep cost in my opinion. Similarly, the app itself is free but there are in app purchases necessary to unlock the full potential of the app. However, if all you want is a quick and easy but fun visual, this is a really good starting place. It has the least amount of functionality in terms of manipulating designs, which is what makes it so quick and easy to use. So users desiring more control over the details will want to look elsewhere, but it is definitely a good starting point and a great place for fun. And it is a great place for those who want to create Memes.

It does have some GIF, animation and video options, but I have not really tried to use those yet.

Pros:

There is a large number of image options to choose from. And I do mean a large number – the publicity materials say there are “1000s”.

It is quick and easy to use.

It’s fun.

Cons:

Unless you want to pay high dollar amounts for the pro version, you are stuck with a watermark and other restrictions.

You can’t manipulate the details as much as you can on some other apps.

Bottom Line:

It’s not my go to image app, but it does some fun things that I can’t do on other apps so I am definitely a fan of the fun.

App Review & Blended Pic Tutorial: Fused (with an assist from the Silhouette app)

Monday my co-blogger Heather Booth sent me a text that said,” you might really like this app called Fused.” She had no idea what she was starting as I quickly became obsessed, for the MakerSpace and my teens of course! Using the app I was able to create these images:

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The “Love You” overlay in this picture is from Aviary.

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I used a silhouette of Thing 2 and blended it with a great pic of her.

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I used a silhouette of The Teen doing The Dumplin’ Pose with a picture of crowns to create this ode to Dumplin’.

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A picture of stairs overlaid with a silhouette that comes stock with the Fused app.

This pic was further enhanced using an effect in Space Effects and adding Text in Aviary. It took 4 apps to make this picture. I'm probably doing it wrong.

This pic was further enhanced using an effect in Space Effects and adding text in Aviary. It took 4 apps to make this picture. I’m probably doing it wrong.

Now I have been seeing images like this online for years and coveted knowing how to make them. And I’m not going to lie, there was a bit of a learning curve. Here’s how it works, you select a background image and a foreground image and the Fused app blends the two images together. It sounds simple, but there are a few key tricks that improve your outcome.

Tricks and Tips To Keep in Mind

1. It is helpful, though not necessary depending on what you hope to create, if your background image is a black and white silhouette. I found an app called Silhouette to help create this image, more on this in a minute.

2. A big key to your success if having 2 images that are both well taken photographs and that line up well together. For example, I tried to combine a baby silhouette picture of my girls with a current picture of them to show how they have grown and it was hard finding two pictures that lined up well so there faces weren’t being obscured in weird ways. Like, in one attempt you could only see Thing 2’s chin, which didn’t create a very successful end product.

3. Having a nature picture or just a cool colored photo works well, too. Try taking a picture of a neon sign, a sunset, or clouds. These images blend well with others and you don’t have to worry as much about the ways the pictures line up. This image uses a picture of the moon a friend of mine took (used with permission) and a silhouette provided in the Fused app.

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A silhouette of Thing 2 blended with a picture of the cloudy sky that I took.

First Step: Create Your Background Silhouette Using the Silhouette App

As I mentioned, I used an app called Silhouette to create the background silhouette for blending purposes. Here you need to start with a picture that has a stark contrast to begin with. If you can, pose yourself or your subject in front of a white or a dark wall and take your photo in black and white. Here’s my initial photo that I used:

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I then used the Silhouette app to make it into the black and white silhouette I needed for the Fused app:

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A picture with a darker background and a lighter focal point, say a person, will create a white or negative space silhouette.

Darker background with a lighter focal point=white (negative space) silhouette

Darker background with a lighter focal point = white (negative space) silhouette

A picture with a lighter background and a darker focal point will create a black silhouette.

A lighter background with a darker focal point=a black silhouette

A lighter background with a darker focal point = a darker silhouette

Either one works, they just work differently as the Fused app will color in the white space – the negative space – with your other photo. Of course black and white are relative terms, I should probably say negative and positive space The Mr. would say, because you can use an RGB slide bar to colorize your silhouette.

Left: A silhouette of Thing 2 colorized blue Right: Same silhouette blended with a pic of the sky after being spiffed up with the Space Effects app

Left: A silhouette of Thing 2 colorized blue
Right: Same silhouette blended with a pic of the sky after being spiffed up with the Space Effects app

There is also an Invert option that can be used to toggle between a colored or a white silhouette:

The same silhouette from directly above using the Invert option.

The same silhouette from directly above using the Invert option.

It is also helpful to have as little in the background as possible to create your silhouette. Ideally, you would pose your subject in front of a blank wall in a contrasting color.

The above silhouette examples were made using this initial picture, taken at night and lightened. It would have worked better without the dark edges near the top of the frame.

The above silhouette examples were made using this initial picture, taken at night and lightened. It would have worked better without the dark edges near the top of the frame.

And as I mentioned, you do not have to use a black and white silhouette, I just found that Fused app worked better if I did. Insructables has some more information on how to create a photo silhouette. Digital photography school also has some information about photographing silhouettes.

Don’t want to use an app? Here’s a tutorial for creating a silhouette using iPiccy.com

Second Step: Using the Fused App

After saving this to my camera roll, I uploaded it as my background picture in Fused. As my foreground I used this picture:

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The Fused app gives you several blending options and you just kind of play around with them to find an option that you like best. Within each option it also has a slide bar which allows you to increase the contrast and blend. I used the “screen” option with the two pictures above to create this:

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Please note, Fused does not actually have an add text option. I added the text using the Aviary app that I reviewed last week.

I love and highly recommend both of these apps. It takes a little bit of time and trial and error, and some attention to details, to get a good end product; however, as I learned more what worked and what didn’t it became easier to use. The key is having good pictures to start with and it probably won’t surprise you to know that I have tons of those to experiment with.

If you want to get highly sophisticated and have access to Photoshop, here’s a tutorial for creating the same types of effects using that program.

And here is a free online program you can use to create a double exposure effect.

I made this really quickly with the free online double exposure program.

I made this really quickly with the free online double exposure program.

About Fused

BlendPic and InstantBlend are apps similar to Fused that you can also try. I was not able to use InstandBlend as successfully as I was Fused and I have not tried BlendPic. All of them have additional in app purchases. I paid for the upgrade for the Fused app after deciding I really liked it to remove the watermark from my images. In future upgrades of the app I hope that they consider better undo options.

About Silhouette

It’s free and does cool things so no harm, no foul.

Fused also can be used to make videos, but I have no idea how to do that part yet.

Now I’m sure there will be someone out there who will tell me there is a much easier way to do this. :)

App Review: Aviary (The quest for the perfect photo app continues)

Last week we got the final approval to make some big changes at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) where I am working as the YA Services Coordinator. Namely, my proposal to move the YA fiction collection out of an enclosed space to a new location and to turn that enclosed space into a MakerSpace was approved (I’ll be writing more about that soon). I am beyond excited because I think it is a great use of the space for our patrons current needs. And in anticipation of this change we (the Assistant Director and I) have been investigating some tech for the space. And since one of my programming goals is to help teens use our technology to make their own memes and artwork, I have been investigating photo apps. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for my teens.

So in the course of my investigation I found multiple references and recommendations for a photo app called Aviary. Here are the basics:

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  • It’s for the iPhone or an iPad
  • You must have IOS7 or later
  • It is basically free but there are in app purchases (more about this in a moment)
  • It combines a wide variety of features that I have been using multiple apps to perform

Overall, I really like this app and can see why it has gotten all the accolades. As I mentioned, it combines a lot of great features into one app where in the past I have used multiple apps.

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Here’s a picture I manipulated of Thing 2 in the Aviary app. It allowed me to use a vignette and to resize it so I could cut out the outside stuff and focus the attention on her face. Then I was able to use a simple sticker that said “This is Love” to put on the bottom. I printed it out and it looks great.

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This is a picture I took of a bunch of crowns at the DUMPLIN’ (by Julie Murphy) release party at the Irving Public Library. I was able to use a vibrant filter and add this text and create a great pic that pays homage to the book.

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This photo is a Star Wars Lego Minifigure posed in front of a piece of scrapbooking paper that has like a galaxy theme on it. I then ran it through some filters and added the text.

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In addition to the various stickers and frames, Aviary also has some overlays you can use. here is a picture of the moon a friend took (used with permission) and I added the whimsical overlay border you see at the top and bottom of the picture. Normally, I would have used something like this in the A Beautiful Mess app and then used another app to finish my picture. I was able to do this all in one place.

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And here’s a picture of The Teen and The Bestie from a recent trip ice skating. Simple filters and a “Friends” sticker made it a great photo.

So, here’s what I like:

In addition to the normal photo manipulating techniques in most photo apps like crop, brighten, sharpen, etc., Aviary has a variety of filters (also called effects), frames, overlays and stickers you can use to enhance your photo.

You can easily add text to your photo where before I would use an app and then save the photo and use the Over app to add text. Having everything I want and need available in one app is definitely a bonus.

It has a “Meme” feature that easily lets you add text to the bottom and top of your photo to create a meme. It has less functionality then the text feature but it is quicker if this is your end goal.

It has a “Draw” feature that allows you to free hand draw or write onto your photos. It also has an erase in case you make a mistake. I don’t have the skills to successfully use this feature, but it is cool that it exists in the app.

What I Don’t Like:

Although the app is technically free, you only get a handful of filters (effects), frames, overlays and stickers with the initial download. After that, you have to buy additional packages at 99 cents each. And there are a lot of additional packages to buy organized by themes. In the end, the app could end up costing you a lot of money depending on how happy you are with the standard components. For example, I wasn’t super excited about the filters/effects which are included. Though for that additional 99 cents you can get some cool ones like fireworks, fade, etc. I counted 48 effects packages, so you would have to pay over $40.00 to get all the effects for this app. And then you would have to do the same for the frames, stickers and overlays. You’ll also want to be careful because not all packages are created equal. The censored sticker pack, which would be cool for Banned Books Week, has 17 stickers while the fashion sticker pack has 38 stickers.

Although you can add text to your picture, there are only 10 font options and as far as I can tell you can not purchase additional font packages. I would like to see more font options available and don’t understand why they don’t sell these packages since they sell so many other packages.

In addition, there are only 22 color choices for your text where some other apps have more.

Bottom Line:

It’s definitely a great app and I highly recommend it with caution: it’s kinda free but not really and be careful or you can spend a lot of money. In future upgrades I would like to see them add more functionality to the text feature. Overall, Aviary is definitely a great one stop place for most of your photo manipulation needs.

How about you, what photo editing apps and online programs do you like? Let me know in the comments. For more app reviews check out Tech Talk.